Movie review: 'Simon and the Oaks' an overstuffed melodrama

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How many plot complications can you fit into one movie? The Swedish coming-of-age drama "Simon and the Oaks" includes the Nazi occupation of Sweden, the Holocaust, mental illness, parental alienation and a teen's identity crisis in one overstuffed package.

The movie, based on Marianne Frederiksson's novel, starts in 1939 with young Simon (Jonatan S. Wächter), who on his first day of school is befriended by Isak (Karl Martin Eriksson), the picked-on Jewish kid. Simon soon adopts Isak's wealthy and worldly father, Ruben (Jan Josef Liefers), as a mentor, a friendship that continues after the war when the adult Simon (Bill Skarsgård) rejects his parents (Helen Sjöholm and Stefan Gödicke) after learning a dark family secret.

Director Lisa Ohlin lards the film with endless subplots and side characters, never settling on whether the story belongs to Simon, his parents or Ruben.

Skarsgård (son of "The Avengers' " Stellan Skarsgård and brother of "True Blood's" Alexander Skarsgård) has charisma and sex appeal, and generates enough good will to make up for this sprawling melodrama's shortcomings.; —


'Simon and the Oaks'

Opens Friday, Dec. 28, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; not rated, but probably R for strong sexuality, some violence and language; in Swedish with subtitles; 117 minutes.